The digital divide between developing countries and industrial societies is seen as problem and a disadvantage that needs to be rectified. I tend to agree, in that it is a disadvantage not only to the developing nations, but to the rest of the world. As has often been argued, the Internet is a global technology. We hear every day about the benefits that come from the way it 'connects' the world. However, not all corners of the world are as 'connected' as we are often made to believe.
What can be done about these technological inequalities? I recently collaborated on a short survey of commercial Internet usage in an African country. Well, it started out as a survey of Internet representation in general, but gravitated towards commercial usage as that was most prominent. Similar to its early days in Europe and North America, the Internet and the IT industry in general lend themselves to entrepreneurship and small business. The plans of Botswana's government to provide financial aid for young people to set up cybercafes will hopefully prove fruitful in the short term, but also in setting up an infrastructure which will promote technological development into the future. It is also easy to understand why civil servants should be introduced to computing.
I would like to find comparative examples of this type of governmental initiative. Many times it is presumed that finances are the only barrier to computing practices. Cost is a major issue, but it is not the only preventative factor in many places. The education and training they are offering to young people and civil servants in Botswana looks promising. Perhaps the program will be successful in uncovering further reasons for the lack of technology adoption in Botswana and other areas with low computer usage.
Computers will be affordable
GABORONE - The Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology has formed a partnership with computer software giant Microsoft through which computers would become affordable to Batswana. ... Mrs Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, said through the partnership, government was aiming at promoting information and communications technology and bridge the digital gap. Mrs Venson-Moitoi said Botswana was faced with the challenge to reduce the digital gap with developed world.
She said long-term vision for the ministry was to have a computer in every home and create an enabling environment for IT development. ... Microsoft would assist in bringing down the cost of computers for identified youths and civil servants. Unemployment youths, information technology graduates and civil servants would also benefit from the scheme. She told the audience that CEDA would assist youths in setting up cyber cafes while the Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sports would assist by identifying youths eligible for the programme. ... First National Bank would offer an easy credit scheme for civil servants.
... Microsoft General Manager for East and Southern Africa, Mr Thapelo Lippe, said e-governance required that citizens have computers, in other words it requires e-citizens. He said training would be offered to civil servants and it would be offered at appropriate levels, that is, beginner level for those who do not have any knowledge in computers. ... Three to five youths would each operate a cyber cafe and they would be provided with finance in the form of a grant and loan combination, he said. Youths setting up cyber cafes would be provided with computers, Internet connectivity and access. ... the gesture from the stakeholders was a clear commitment to assist governments efforts in empowering youths in the country. BOPA [source]
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